Dave’s photography blog

Welcome to my Blog.

Here I talk about various different topics related to nature photography.

Note, please click on the title itself to expand the post and read it fully.

I look forward to your comments.

5 tips for Improving your Whale Photography

5 tips for Improving your Whale Photography

5 tips for Improving your Whale Photography?

I have been photographing and exploring the wilds of nature around Vancouver Island and the BC coast since 2005.  Whale photography (orcas and humpbacks) has been a regular part of my nature photography for the last 10 years.  It takes time and patience.  Throughout my many experiences, I have put together my “5 tips for improving your Whale Photography”.

  • First on my list is to ensure you have your camera settings dialed in properly. Well, what does that mean?  In my mind, shutter speed trumps everything.  If it is blurry or out of focus, what can you do with the image?  Nothing really.  If there is action (breaching), I will set the shutter speed to at least 1/1600 or preferably 1/2000 sec.  If the whales are moving normally in the water, with just fins visible, then 1/800 to 1/1000 will work.  I start with aperture f/7.1 and adjust accordingly.  I use full manual settings with auto ISO.  The component regarding camera settings is to ensure you have continuous auto focus (AF-C in Nikon) set.  I will use single point or dynamic in 90% of the shots.  Single point remains the fastest.
dave-hutchison-nature-photography

Transient orca near Cowichan Bay, BC

Northern resident near Campbell River, BC

  • Number two on my list is to check if the whale watching tour company of your choice offers an evening sailing. Over the years the 5-9 pm spring and summer sailing are my absolutely favourite as the light is much softer than during the daytime (especially in the summer).  As an added bonus, be ready for amazing sunsets and other scenes on your way back.

Sunset in the Gulf Islands near Vancouver Island, BC

Portlock Point Lighthouse, Prevost Island, BC Canada

  • The third tip may seem obvious but be ready.  Anticipating the action can provide you with one in a lifetime shots.  There is not guarantee to get the breach shot, but without anticipation it is very difficult to get these types of shots while sharp and in focus at the same time.  Keep trying and don’t give up.  Your time will come, as mine did a few times on the last 3 years.

Humpback whale, Strait of Georgia, Vancouver Island, BC

  • Fourth on the list is paying attention to your background. This can be a challenge in whale and marine photography, but anticipation can also help greatly.  A poorly composed background can ruin an otherwise wonderful image, but a beautiful background that truly puts you in the place, can turn an average image into a wonderful one.

Transient orca whales, Swanson Channel, Vancouver Island, BC

  • The final tip for whale photography is to be prepared for the unexpected. If you look around you will start to see things that you might not have expected, especially if it is your first time out on the water (or it has been a long while since you were last out).  I don’t think I have ever been on a whale trip where something interesting didn’t happen.  I could be a lighthouse, or a family of sea lions, or some eagle nicely posing with Mount Baker in the background.

Bald eagles near Samuel Island, Gulf Islands, BC

Dave Hutchison is an award-winning landscape & wildlife photographer based near Victoria on southern Vancouver Island.  Dave offers Adventure Photo Tours around Vancouver Island with info available at https://davehutchison.ca/adventure-tours/.  He also leads multi-day workshops for wildlife photography in The Great Bear Rainforest.  Details are at https://davehutchison.ca/grizzlies-great-bear-rainforest/.  He also offers webinars & workshops around the globe on Long Exposure Photography – “The Art of Seeing What You Can’t See” and soon on Drone Photography.

Dave is an International Brand Ambassador for Singh-Ray Filters based in Florida (discount coupon code dhi15 for 15% off at checkout at https://singh-ray.com ).  Other discounts and deals can be found at https://davehutchison.ca/affiliates/

Top 5 Places to visit in Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island

Top 5 Places to visit in Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island?

I have been photographing and exploring the wilds of nature around Port Renfrew for over 17 years.  Port Renfrew really has it all.  Within minutes you can be in a beautiful old growth forest or a walk along a gorgeous beach.  Over those years, I have compiled a “5 Must see places to visit in Port Renfrew”.

  • First on my list when visiting Port Renfrew would be the world-famous Fairy Lake Tree. This little bonsai tree is fabulous in all seasons but there are a few key factors to get that beautiful shot.  With Fairy Lake Tree, the light (time of day) and wind are the two most crucial factors.  Early morning is by far the best before the wind picks up usually about half hour after sunrise.  The most magical moment tends to happen right when the wind starts and a painterly effect can be captured on the lake.  The best physical spot tends to be east on the lake before the boat ramp, but there are many great spots.  Look for a clearing in the vegetation.  Driving time from Port Renfrew is 10 minutes along Pacific Marine Road.  Fairy Lake is the first lake on the right and no hiking is required.  Parking available on the roadside (be careful of traffic as there is not a lot of space for cars).

Fairy Lake Bonsai Tree

Fairy Lake Bonsai Tree portrait

 

  • Number two on my list would be Botanical Beach (and Botany Bay), which is also part of the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park. Botanical Beach attracts thousands of visitors per year simply because it is filled with a variety of subject matter (and is the start or finish of the 47km Juan de Fuca Trail).  From waves crashed on the rocky shoreline, sunsets, and the amazing tide pools, Botanical Beach offers something for everyone.  Pay particular attention to the tides.  At high tide (9-10 ft or more), not much can be accessed.  A mid tide (5-7 ft) can work well and leave enough foreground to still make image making interesting.  A very low tide of 1-2ft will enable you to walk around the tide line from Botany Bay to Botanical Beach (see first image below).  I highly recommend installing an up to date tide app like GPS Real Tides to ensure your safety.  A low tide will also reveal the creatures left behind in the popular tide pools along Botanical Beach.  And don’t forget to check out the lookout mid-way between the two beaches for a telephoto shot (last image below).  Driving time along Cerantes Road to the parking lot at the end is 5-10 minutes from Port Renfrew.  Hiking is light to moderate and can vary depending on what you see, but allow at least an hour or two in total to cover both beaches.  The forest between the two beaches is also amazing!
Botany Bay Port Renfrew

Botany Bay

Botanical Beach Provincial Park and Botany Bay

Botany Bay

Botanical Beach Provincial Park Port Renfrew

Botanical Beach

Botanical Beach

 

  • Third on my list would be the well-known ancient old growth forest, Avatar Grove. Originally protected in 2012 after an intense campaign by the Ancient Forest Alliance & the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, Avatar Grove is a favorite among travelers.  Avatar has two distinctly different areas called the upper and lower groves.  My favorite is the lower grove.  This part of the forest is generally “cleaner” of debris but largely depends on what storm has come through the area.  One year I went to the upper grove, and the recent storm was so bad that I didn’t photograph as the forest was in chaos.  However, the upper grove does have the must-see “Canada’s Gnarliest Tree”.  Wander all the way to the top and check out the gnarly tree with lots of character and there is even a bench to take a rest on when you reach the top.  Lower grove and upper grove, on average take about 30-45 minutes (each).  The hiking is light to moderate.  Driving time along Gordon River Road (gravel road) north out of Port Renfrew is about 15-20 minutes.  Parking is plentiful along the roadside.
Western Red Cedar Lower Avatar Grove Port Renfrew

Western Red Cedar, Lower Avatar Grove

Lower Avatar Grove Port Renfrew

Lower Avatar Grove

Upper Avatar Grove Canada's Gnarliest tree in background Port Renfrew

Upper Avatar Grove (Canada’s Gnarliest tree in background)

 

  • The next spot is somewhat of a tie due to the proximity to each other. Both Big Lonely Doug and Eden Grove are a must see when you are in Port Renfrew.  However, be sure to have a full tank of gas and very good tires as the logging road to these old growth forests can be rough but still passable in most front wheel or four-wheel drive cars.  Note, the last .5-1km before Big Lonely Doug and Eden Grove is rough and usually requires four-wheel drive clearance.  I have walked this last stretch many times and it is a light walk with hiking boots.  Both Big Lonely Doug and Eden Grove are about a 30 minute drive from Port Renfrew along Gordon River Road and then right for 10 minutes on Edinburgh Main Road (large Y in the road).  Eden Grove is another 10 minute walk along Edinburgh Main past Big Lonely Doug and it is on your right.  There is a large wooden arch marking the start of the trail to Eden Grove (see pic of me below).
Big Lonely Doug Port Renfrew

Big Lonely Doug

Eden Grove Port Renfrew

Eden Grove

Dave Hutchison at Eden Grove in Port Renfrew

Dave at Eden Grove

Western Red Cedar Eden Grove Port Renfrew

Western Red Cedar, Eden Grove

 

  • The final location I would recommend visiting is Payzant Creek. It is an absolutely gorgeous waterfalls and especially wonderful in the spring months when water flow is usually excellent.  The spring greens are also wonderful with the ferns showing themselves after the winter.  Out of all the location listed, this is the most strenuous and rated as moderate and high if muddy.  Wear ankle high hiking boots for the trek to Payzant.  To access Payzant Creek and the waterfalls, park at the Parkinson Creek Trailhead parking lot about 10-15 minutes south on Hwy 14 (West Coast Road) and turn right on Parkinson Creek Trailhead Access Road for another 10 minutes until the road ends in the parking lot (day parking is free).  Take the trail to the far right from the parking lot (then a left after a few minutes – there is a sign) and head along the Juan de Fuca Trail for approx. 60 minutes.  The waterfalls are located 2 minutes upstream from a wooden foot bridge which is part of the trail.  The AllTrails app would also be wise to load prior to your trip to ensure you find the waterfalls.  Note, there are some sections of the trail that scoot onto the beach and back into the forest.  Follow the large buoys along the beach that mark the reentrance back onto the trail.
Payzant Creek, Juan de Fuca Trail Port Renfrew

Payzant Creek, Juan de Fuca Trail

 

Dave Hutchison, CPA, BA Hon. is an award-winning landscape & wildlife photographer based near Victoria on southern Vancouver Island.  Dave offers Adventure Photo Tours around Vancouver Island with info available at https://davehutchison.ca/adventure-tours/.  He also leads multi-day workshops for wildlife photography in The Great Bear Rainforest.  Details are at https://davehutchison.ca/grizzlies-great-bear-rainforest/.  He also offers webinars & workshops for Beginners and Long Exposure Photography – “The Art of Seeing What You Can’t See”.  Dave is an International Brand Ambassador for Singh-Ray Filters based in Florida (discount coupon code dhi15 for 15% off at checkout at https://singh-ray.com ).  Other discounts and deals can be found at https://davehutchison.ca/affiliates/.

Tips for making Long Exposure images during a storm

A few tips for long exposures at Point Atkinson Lighthouse at Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver, BC during a BC storm.

A spring storm was brewing off the west coast with landfall expected just after I was going to shoot on Sunday. But the storm arrived a bit early. Darn it, what will I do now.

This image was created in 50 kph wind gusts, and rain and not to mention the location has zero cover from the elements – it is exposed. But I always like to try and get something from a trip and I did.

A few tricks I used during this long exposure creation were:
– hold the tripod down gently with your hand
– wipe the front filter gently every 30 seconds on a 3 min exposure time. Note, this doesn’t always work and the cloth has to be dry to start with – not a used one.
– and take multiple images at varying shutter speeds in case you need to blend images later for unwanted movement.

Follow my blog at https://davehutchison.ca/blog/ for more fun and interesting stories as I travel around BC.

I am an award-winning landscape & wildlife photographer based near Victoria on southern Vancouver Island.  I also offers Adventure Photo Tours around Vancouver Island with info available at https://davehutchison.ca/adventure-tours/.  Dave is an International Brand Ambassador for Singh-Ray Filters based in Florida (discount coupon code dhi15 for 15% off at checkout at https://singh-ray.com ).  Other discounts and deals can be found at https://davehutchison.ca/affiliates/.  Dave leads multi day workshops for landscapes & wildlife photography on the BC coast & The Great Bear Rainforest https://davehutchison.ca/grizzlies-great-bear-rainforest/.  Dave also offers webinars & workshops around the globe on Long Exposure Photography – “The Art of Seeing What You Can’t See”.

Top 5 Places to visit on Vancouver Island by Dave Hutchison

Top 5 Places to visit on Vancouver Island?  I have been photographing and exploring the wilds of nature on & off Vancouver Island for over 16 years. Throughout my adventures, I have compiled a “Top 5 Places to visit on Vancouver Island”.

  • First on my list would be Mystic Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The first one is a tough choice as there are so many great locations but this one has lots of variety to offer.  Tip, during the summer months, avoid weekend and holidays as the crowds of people camping can be overwhelming.  During the week is much better and often in the winter and spring months you can have the beach to yourself.  Oh, and the waterfall is usually still active well into spring but does slow a lot into the summer months.

Mystic Beach, Vancouver Island

Mystic Beach, Vancouver Island

  • Next I would rank Botanical Beach (and Botany Bay) in Port Renfrew as the next must visit on the southern west coast of Vancouver Island. Know as the finished (or starting) point for the Juan de Fuca Trail, Botanical beach attracts thousands of visitor per year simply because it is filled with a variety of subject matter.  From waves crashed on the rocky shoreline, sunset, and the amazing tide pools offer something for everyone.

  • Third is the world renown Ucluelet (& Tofino) on the central west coast of Vancouver Island. Tofino is more known for its large, big wide-open beaches, but Ucluelet has it own beauty with the Wild Pacific Trail (not to be confused with the West Coast trail).  The trail starts close to Amphitrite Lighthouse, weaves through Big Beach (awesome for storm shots like below), and ends at Rocky Bluffs for a total of 8km one way.  The trail is well maintained and suitable for all abilities and partially wheelchair accessible.  Trail is accessible all year around.

 

  • A top 5 list would not be complete without a trip to Brady’s Beach in Bamfield. July is the best month to camp on Brady’s Beach and experience the unforgettable sunsets.  Brady’s Beach is unique.  After a 4-5 hour drive (half of it on logging roads) from Victoria, one has to take a short 5 minute water taxi from East Bamfield to West Bamfield and access Brady’s Beach by foot (about 15-20 minute walk with gear).  With free camping on Brady’s Beach, and beautiful seas stacks, it is hard to go wrong with this beautiful location.

dave-hutchison-nature-photography

 

  • The final location on Vancouver Island to visit (but might be your first) is San Josef Bay in Cape Scott Provincial Park. Approximately a 7-8 hour drive from Victoria and the last 62km is on a gravel road (take a spare tire in good condition and fill up with gas in Port Hardy) but is worth every bump of it.  One at the Cape Scott Provincial Park parking lot, the walk is an easy 2km or approx. 45 minutes on a very well maintained wide trail.  The huge wide open sandy beaches with awesome sea stacks are a nature enthusiasts dream.  Also, keep an eye open for the large western red cedar trees along the trail to the beach!  Tip, keep an eye on the weather as this part of Vancouver Island can change in a flash.  Summer is a bit more predictable.

dave-hutchison-nature-photography

 

Dave Hutchison is an award-winning landscape & wildlife photographer based near Victoria on southern Vancouver Island.  Dave offers Adventure Photo Tours around Vancouver Island with info available at https://davehutchison.ca/adventure-tours/.  Dave is an International Brand Ambassador for Singh-Ray Filters based in Florida (discount coupon code dhi15 for 15% off at checkout at https://singh-ray.com ).  Other discounts and deals can be found at https://davehutchison.ca/affiliates/

Dave leads multi day workshops for landscapes & wildlife photography on the BC coast & The Great Bear Rainforest https://davehutchison.ca/grizzlies-great-bear-rainforest/.  Dave also offers webinars & workshops around the globe on Long Exposure Photography – “The Art of Seeing What You Can’t See”.

Adventure Tours on Vancouver Island in the post pandemic era!

Photography Adventure Tours on Vancouver Island in the post pandemic era by Dave Hutchison I have been photographing and exploring the wilds of nature on & off Vancouver Island for over 16 years.  A particular facet of my business that prospered pre pandemic was Adventure Tours (also known as, Guiding).  What is an Adventure Tour?  It is an excursion where I take photographers and tourists to unique destinations on Vancouver Island.  In the past clients have found me by Google searches or Facebook.  Over the years, I have had Adventure Tour clients from Australia, United States, Alberta and Ontario, as well as from British Columbia.  During the pandemic, I only had clients from BC and Alberta as travel was restricted into Canada.  As of March 1, 2022, visitors coming into Canada will only need an antigen test in order to cross the border into Canada thus making it much easier to explore places like Vancouver Island.

adventure guiding, adventure, guiding, photography lessons, dave hutchison photography

Dave and his Adventure Tours vehicle ready to go.

What makes my Adventure Tours unique and special?  I have been travelling and photographing Vancouver Island for over 16 years and have a very good knowledge of Vancouver Island.  I am happy to say, I am insured (both ICBC & private) and have a license exemption from the Ministry of Transportation.  There are stipulations with the Ministry exemption.  I am required to have an ICBC safety inspection every 6 months, have signage on my vehicle, not carry more than three passengers, and I can’t specifically charge for driving people (like a taxi).  I include transportation in a package or offering which is ultimately to photograph beautiful Vancouver Island.  As a bonus, I offer pickup and drop off service from Victoria International Airport and BC Ferries Swartz Bay Terminal.

adventure guiding, adventure, guiding, photography lessons, dave hutchison photography

Dave and his Adventure Tours vehicle ready to go.

I also offer what I call a full-service experience.  I offer half and full day, as well as, multi day Adventures.  The multi day adventures can be combined with camping or motels.  My Acura SUV is outfitted with a fridge, portable stove, lithium battery pack (for charging batteries and running the fridge when not driving).  I also carry a first aid kit (First Aid Certified), tool box and lots of cutlery, plates, jackets, etc.  It sure is handy to have a cold bottle of water on those hot summer days! Below are examples of beautiful locations on Vancouver Island that I offer on my Adventure Tours.

adventure guiding, adventure, guiding, photography lessons, dave hutchison photography

Half day option: Sandcut Beach near Sooke, BC

(can be combined with Mystic Beach or Sombrio Beach)

adventure guiding, adventure, guiding, photography lessons, dave hutchison photography

Full day option: Mystic Beach near Jordan River, BC

(can be combined with Sandcut Beach or Sombrio Beach)

adventure guiding, adventure, guiding, photography lessons, dave hutchison photography

Full day option: Sombrio Beach near Port Renfrew, BC

(can be combined with other locations in the Port Renfrew area)

adventure guiding, adventure, guiding, photography lessons, dave hutchison photography

Full day option: Fairy Lake tree near Port Renfrew, BC

(can be combined with Avatar Grove & Eden Grove)

adventure guiding, adventure, guiding, photography lessons, dave hutchison photography

Old growth forest at Eden Grove near Port Renfrew, BC

(can be combine with other locations in the area)

Now I am outfitted for 2022 what comes next?  Will the Adventure Tour bookings and numbers return to a pre pandemic state as we venture further into a post pandemic era?  So far, I have had two inquires for the spring so that is a good start.  For Adventure Tour information, pricing, and options, please visit https://davehutchison.ca/adventure-tours/ Dave Hutchison is an award-winning landscape & wildlife photographer based near Victoria on southern Vancouver Island.  Dave has been a PPOC member since 2013 and won Best in Class in “Fine Art” at the 2020 PPOC National Image Salon.  Dave has three PPOC accreditations – nature, pictorial/floral, & wildlife.  Dave is also an International Brand Ambassador for Singh-Ray Filters based in Florida (discount coupon code dhi15 for 15% off at checkout at https://singh-ray.com ). Further discounts and deal are at https://davehutchison.ca/affiliates/ Dave leads multi day workshops for landscapes & wildlife photography on the BC coast & The Great Bear Rainforest https://davehutchison.ca/grizzlies-great-bear-rainforest/.  Dave also offers webinars & private Zoom sessions around the globe on Long Exposure Photography – “The Art of Seeing What You Can’t See”.

Can an iPhone 12 Pro Max be used for Photography by Dave Hutchison?

Can an iPhone 12 Pro Max be used for Photography?  I have been photographing and exploring the wilds of nature on & off Vancouver Island for close to 15 years.  From time to time, it is very handy to have something portable you can pull literally out of your pocket and snap a quick image.  Content could be used for a social media reel or just a reference image.  But can you really use an iPhone 12 Pro Max for photography and use the image?

26mm, 1x / native camera – acceptable

Recently I purchased an iPhone 12 Pro Max cell phone, but for a few reasons.  First, I was attracted to the ability for the phone to photograph RAW images (uses Apples own Raw format that show as DNGs).  Secondly, I wanted a phone physically larger so I could actually read it (my iPhone 8 was becoming too small).  Ah the wonders of aging.

26mm, 1x / native camera selected – accepted by a stock agency

The Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max uses three cameras and is 12mp.  The default choice is 1x mode or what I call the native camera the phone uses when you start to photograph.  To the left there is the wide-angle mode which shows as 0.5 on the selection just above the “Photo” button when taking an image.  To the right is the telephoto mode which shows as 2.5x on the selection just above “Photo” button too.  The telephoto camera will actually go all the way to 12x zoom.

13mm, wide angle camera selected – distortion at the edges

But which modes work the best?  I have tested all three cameras and the wide angle and telephoto are simply not usable in the sense of making an image that could be sold to say a stock photography agency.  At the wide end there is too much distortion at the edges and telephoto doesn’t retain enough detail.  However, the native 1x camera can produce acceptable images.  Remember I am saying acceptable not stunning like what can be created from a 45mp full frame camera.

64mm, telephoto camera selected – loss of detail is noticeable

26mm, 1x / native camera selected – not much distortion and acceptable

In conclusion, the 1x mode (not zoomed in or wide-angle) is usable in well lit conditions, even to the point where I have had a few images accepted to stock agencies take with my iPhone 12 Pro Max.  The images taken with the wide-angle or telephoto camera are not usable in my opinion.

Summary:

Pros

  • Compact and easy to use
  • RAW or JPEG format
  • 1x native camera is acceptable
  • Easy to upload to dropbox or google drive from camera

Cons

  • The wide-angle and telephoto cameras are not usable images (at least for my photography)
  • RAW seems to only work in the 4:3 aspect ration and not the other ratios (other ratios only work in jpeg)

Dave Hutchison is an award-winning landscape & wildlife photographer based near Victoria on southern Vancouver Island.  Dave has been a PPOC member since 2013 and won Best in Class in “Fine Art” at the 2020 PPOC National Image Salon.  Dave has three PPOC accreditations – nature, pictorial/floral, & wildlife.  Dave is also an International Brand Ambassador for Singh-Ray Filters based in Florida (discount coupon code dhi15 for 15% off at checkout at https://singh-ray.com ).  Dave leads multi day workshops for landscapes & wildlife photography on the BC coast & The Great Bear Rainforest https://davehutchison.ca/grizzlies-great-bear-rainforest/.  Dave also offers webinars & private Zoom sessions around the globe on Long Exposure Photography – “The Art of Seeing What You Can’t See”.  Details can be found at https://davehutchison.ca/webinars/

10 Tips for Wildlife Photography by Dave Hutchison

10 Tips for Wildlife Photography by Dave Hutchison

I have been photographing and exploring the wilds of nature on & off Vancouver Island for close to 15 years.  Like any genre within photography, wildlife photography has certain tips and tricks that are valuable for the getting the best possible images.

  • TRIPOD & HEAD – A tripod is a very handy tool for wildlife photography BUT comes with a few catches. Apart from the difference of carbon vs aluminum, which can be found on my previous blog posts, a tripod for wildlife should be heavy duty and come to at least your eye level.  I often use a tripod for wildlife photography when I understand the subject will be more stationary and I can set up in a location.  I also use a gimbal style (Jobu Designs, made in Canada) head that enables the camera to move freely in any direction while mounted to the tripod.  A tripod can also be useful to reduce fatigue while waiting for the moment.  I recommend the FLM Canada brand of tripod and info can be found on my web site at https://davehutchison.ca/affiliates/
  • HANDHOLDING your camera – Learning how to handhold your camera effectively to get the best results in invaluable. Sometimes tripods are simply not practical.  For example, when photographing from a boat, I do not recommend a tripod as they can often get in the way.  Often wildlife photography requires a photographer to be mobile and able to move quickly.  I start by putting my hand under the barrel of the lens (not on the focus ring, but on the focal length ring (zoom ring) or front of the lens if a fixed prime lens) and use gravity to your advantage.  I often see folks putting their hands on the side or even over top of their lens which is not as effective.  When you press the shutter button, roll over the shutter gently (a light press) to reduce any extra vibrations.  Most modern cameras and/or lenses also have a vibration reduction feature that is beneficial for handholding.  Also, note some lenses have a vibration reduction setting when used on tripods (this does make a difference).  Make sure you have the setting correct depending on your setup.

  • FAST lenses and FAST autofocus – Ok, we have to talk about camera gear to some degree. Honestly, there is no substitute for fast lenses & fast autofocusing camera bodies.  In a perfect world, a prime (fixed focal length) f/2.8 or f/4 lens will be the best for speed and overall quality.  The drawback is prime lenses tend to be higher priced, large, and heavy.  Technology now is lowering the size and weight of many lenses, but not the price.  As an example, I currently use a Nikon 500mm f/4 VR G lens and it is very sharp and accurate.  I do miss some compositions as I am not able to change the focal length (or I have to move) but I make up for it when speed is required.  When a high-quality lens is paired with an equally fast autofocusing camera body, wonderful results can occur.  Now there is a big shift where DSLR’s are being replaced by high end mirrorless cameras with electronic shutters that are whisper quiet (nice for wildlife), have no blackouts between frames, and fast autofocus.
  • Full manual settings with auto ISO – In last 5-7 years there has been a big technology shift where ISO ranges have increased greatly, which has been a huge advantage for wildlife photographers (animals usually move around at dusk and dawn). I now use auto ISO in manual mode for all my wildlife photography.  Within reason, I don’t concern myself with the ISO, but focus on shutter speed and depth of field and let the ISO “float” depending on the light available (and the shutter speed and aperture set by the user).  This has been a game changer for almost all wildlife photographers in the last 5-7 years.

Nikon D4s, Nikon 500mm f/4 VR G at f/7.1, 1/2500, ISO 500

  • Shutter speed – Knowing your shutter speed is so another crucial step towards effective wildlife photography. A rule of thumb I use is to at least match your shutter speed to your focal length.  For example, at 500mm I would strive to keep the shutter speed at or above 1/500 sec.  This can have some leeway now with vibration reduction, in body image stabilization (IBIS) but a good rule to keep in mind.  Here are a few other tips.

Eagles in flight – 1/1600 – 1/2000 sec

Ducks in flight – 1/2500 to 1/3200 sec

Bears walking through grass, etc. (depending if in boat or on land) – 1/500 – 1/800 sec

Whales breaching – 1/1600 – 1/2000 sec

Nikon D5, Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 at f/7.1, 1/1600, ISO 250, +1/3 EV

  • Control depth of field. Here are four tips to help you control your depth of field and help make you images pop.  First, decrease distance to your subject.  Decreasing your distance to the subject will in essence blur your background and help make the subject pop from that background.  Second, long focal lengths (500mm-600mm) compress distance and create a shallower depth of field.  For example, using a 200mm vs a 500mm lens with the same settings on the composition will reveal very different results for helping make you subject pop.  Third, increase the distance between your subject and the background.  This can often be achieve by getting low or at eye level to your subject where the background is further away.  Lastly, and probably the most obvious is to adjust the aperture of your lens.  Photographing wide open at say f/2.8 or f/4 will result in a blurred background in most cases.  As you move the aperture to say f/5.6 or f/8 the background will come more into focus.
  • Keep an eye on your background and any distracting elements. This composition tip is so important.  In short, a cluttered or ineffective background can ruin an image with a great subject in no time.  I strive for clean, non-distracting backgrounds.  Tip, when photographing make sure to scan around your frame and don’t fall victim to subject fixation.  Look around the edges, and make sure the background works and doesn’t compete with your subject.

Nikon D850, Nikon 300mm f/2.8 at f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO 5600, -1/3 EV

dave-hutchison-nature-photography

Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 VR G at f/7.1, 1/2000, ISO 250, -1/3 EV

  • Accessory tip. Years ago I learned about a simple accessory that I have put on all my wildlife cameras over the years – a rubber eye cup.  A rubber eye will not only reduce eye strain, but also reduce vibration by making a better contact between you and your camera.
  • Know your subject. Often I will observe wildlife before I start photographing unless I have previous knowledge.  Having the sense of how your subject will move and behave (or not behave) will greatly help you achieve more predictable results.  For example, when trying to photograph a whale breaching, check the currents to see if anything is different or changes in the lead up to a breach.  Do whales play, socialize, or feed before a breach, etc.?  In the birding world, often birds will empty their bowls just before flight giving you the sign to get ready.

Nikon D500, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 at f/4, 1/1250, ISO 3600, -1/3 EV

  • Last but not least, experiment and try new things. This can mean a blur pan or video of your favourite wildlife, but experimenting is crucial to advancing yourself to another level.

Dave Hutchison is an award-winning landscape & wildlife photographer based near Victoria on southern Vancouver Island.  Dave has been a PPOC member since 2013 and won Best in Class in “Fine Art” at the 2020 PPOC National Image Salon.  Dave has three PPOC accreditations – nature, pictorial/floral, & wildlife.  Dave is also an International Brand Ambassador for Singh-Ray Filters based in Florida (discount coupon code dhi15 for 15% off at checkout at https://singh-ray.com ).  Dave leads multi day workshops for landscapes & wildlife photography on the BC coast & The Great Bear Rainforest https://davehutchison.ca/ grizzlies-great-bear-rainforest/.  Dave also offers webinars & private Zoom sessions around the globe on Long Exposure Photography – “The Art of Seeing What You Can’t See”.  Details can be found at https://davehutchison.ca/webinars/

Tips for Forest & Foliage Photography by Dave Hutchison

Tips for Forest & Foliage Photography by Dave Hutchison

I have been photographing and exploring the forest on Vancouver Island for over 10 years.  Like any genre within photography, there are some tips and tricks that are valuable for the getting the best possible images from the forest.

  • I cannot emphasize this one enough, use a tripod. A carbon fiber tripod would be my first choice over an aluminum tripod.  But why?  A few reasons.  A carbon fiber tripod is lighter and absorbs more shock than a less costly and heavier aluminum counter-part.  However, the most interesting I have found is the temperature of the tripods compared to each other.  The forest can tend to be damn and cool, and your carbon fiber tripod will be easier on your hands and less cold.  An aluminum tripod is almost always colder to touch and can make you photo session less fun especially if you forgot gloves.  I recommend the FLM Canada brand of tripod and info can be found on my web site at https://davehutchison.ca/affiliates/
  • Use a polarizer in the forest. I would say 90% of my forest images are taken with a polarizer.  A polarizer is a wonderful method to increase saturation and provide reflection control, especially on wet foliage, damp boardwalks, wet bark, etc.  Sometimes a polarizer blend is necessary if only part of the scene can be polarized in a single shot due to the angle of the sun and the amount of moisture on the foliage (usually leaves).  This method requires two different rotations of the polarizer in 2 or more images and then manually blend together in PS using layers (reveal and conceal technique).

f/10, 1 sec, ISO 800 – Singh-Ray filters LB warming polarizer (2 image polarizer blend)

  • Don’t be concerned if you have to boost the ISO to get an acceptable shutter speed to freeze unwanted movement (if any) in a forest scene. The forest can often be very calm but on the days you are there, and the wind picks up, if you want sharp images, time to boost the ISO.
  • I usually start at f/10-f/11 for depth of field if the scene has a larger expanse and I don’t get too concerned if the very far background is not razor sharp and the easy does not naturally see it that way. I aim for sharpness and focus through depth of field for what I feel would normally be scene by the human eye.  If you want more depth of “focus”, perhaps try a focus stack.  But be aware, they are tough to do in the forest when there is even the slightest of movement.

f/10, .8 sec, ISO 800 – Singh-Ray filters LB warming polarizer

Filters I recommend, along with discount codes can be found at https://davehutchison.ca/affiliates/

  • Slow shutter speeds can work fine in the forest if it is calm. It is not uncommon to photograph the forest at shutter speeds between 1-10 seconds if it is calm.  As a bonus the ISO can be reduced resulting in improved sharpness and overall image quality.  Conditions are very important.
  • If you can’t get everything you see in one shot, try a multi-image panoramic. I find stitching together vertical images in PS (rather than LR) to be the best approach.

f/10, .4 sec., ISO 400, (manual settings, 10 vertical images), Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer

  • I nearly always use an exposure delay of 1-2 secs which give time for the camera to “settle” before taking the shot, especially if the tripod is on uneven ground.
  • Use touch screen shooting to help eliminate vibrations. I use this wonderful feature on my Nikon mirrorless camera and absolutely love it.  A great way to get even sharper images than you previously imagined.

f/13, 4 sec, ISO 800 Singh-Ray LB Color Combo Polarizer

  • Take extra care to make sure unwanted branches, stones, rocks, etc. are not distracting especially around the edges of your image. Unwanted elements can ultimately turn off a viewer subconsciously.
  • Cloudy, overcast days can be fabulous for forest photography providing maximum saturation.
  • Take the shot! Get low, photograph wide, photograph close up, and look behind you to see what you just missed.  Oh and definitely experiment.  That is the most fun of all.

f/10, ¼ sec, ISO 100 (Intentional Camera Movement) – Accepted image, 2021 PPOC-BC Image Salon

Dave Hutchison is an award-winning landscape & wildlife photographer based near Victoria on southern Vancouver Island.  Dave has been a PPOC member since 2013 and won Best in Class in “Fine Art” at the 2020 PPOC National Image Salon.  Dave has three PPOC accreditations – nature, pictorial/floral, & wildlife.  Dave is also an International Brand Ambassador for Singh-Ray Filters based in Florida (discount coupon code dhi15 for 15% off at checkout at https://singh-ray.com ).  Dave leads multi day workshops for landscapes & wildlife photography on the BC coast & The Great Bear Rainforest.  Dave also offers webinars & private Zoom sessions around the globe on Long Exposure Photography – “The Art of Seeing What You Can’t See”.  Details can be found at https://davehutchison.ca/

 

Tips for Long Exposure Photography by Dave Hutchison

Tips for Long Exposure Photography by Dave Hutchison

Tips for Long Exposure Photography – “The Art of Seeing What You Can’t See”

Over the last six years, I have produced dozens of long exposure seascape images in part to living minutes from the BC coast on Vancouver Island.  There are lots of applications for long exposure photography to communicate motion, drama, and just something that is artistic.  The subject could be clouds passing through mountain passes, people in a busy courtyard, car headlights in a traffic circle and the list goes on.  My specialty within Long Exposure Photography is seascapes.

The tips I am sharing can be applied to any long exposure image. Of course, these will vary from subject to subject. Some images will require filters, some won’t.

1. Use a tripod with a solid tripod head. This may seem like the obvious to many photographers, but believe it or not, it remains something that I mention in my workshops time and time again.  Over the years, a carbon fibre tripod is preferred over an aluminum tripod.  Carbon fibre absorbs vibration, whereas, aluminum tends to transmit vibrations and can sometimes contribute to camera vibrations.  Aluminum is cheaper, but don’t be swayed by price. Carbon fibre will be your best bet for landscape and wildlife photography in general, including long exposures.  Carbon fibre tripods are also lighter too.

A solid tripod head is also essential as you do not want any movement in the tripod head when the shutter is open for an extended time period such as a long exposure image.  Ensure the tripod head is securely attached to the tripod, and the camera body plate is also secure.

Photography Workshops Long Exposure

ISO 50, f/11, 13-1/2 mins, Singh-Ray filter 15 stop mor-slo ND

In the above image “Lovin the Blues”, the clouds were what I call “lazy” and not moving much at all.  When conditions are like this, an extra long exposure of 10 minutes if often required to communicate motion.  A tripod (carbon fibre) was essential to make this image and keep it sharp.  I recommend the FLM Canada brand of tripod and info can be found on my web site at https://davehutchison.ca/affiliates/

2. Make sure you have a long exposure calculator app on your phone. Having an app like the Long Exposure Calculator 2.0 by Junel Corales speeds up the process when calculating what exposure time you will need to use based on the “base exposure” and the filters available.  The App is available in the Apple store for free at the link below.

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/long-exposure-calculator/id694553269

3. Calculate your base exposure. Calculating your base exposure is crucial to a successful long exposure image.  I teach putting the camera in aperture priority, no filters, and no exposure compensation (0 EV), to get your base exposure.  Put the ISO to lowest native ISO and pick an aperture between f8-f/11 depending on the subject matter.  Depending on the density of your filters and the subject/scene, adjust the variable accordingly.

4. Acquire focus with auto focus prior to mounting any filters on your lens. I often use a 15 stop neutral density filter (ND) and the camera will not focus through that filter. It is important to focus your camera (after you are happy with the composition). Then put the camera or lens to manual focus.  This is the best practice to avoid inadvertently selecting focus again by habit when the ND filter is attached.

5. Most of the time filters are required especially when bright. As required, depending on the light available at the scene, attach your selected neutral density filter (10 & 15 stops are most common and a 15 stop is essential for long exposures during the daytime) to the front of your lens (either thread on or a bracket system are the two most popular options).  I, myself, use all threaded filters.  I like the simplicity of the thread on system.  The below image “Magical Moment” was created at a long exposure workshop I held in 2020 at Mystic Beach on Vancouver Island.  During the 6-3/4 min exposure, I am able to leave the camera to make and image and teach at the same time.

Photography Workshops Long Exposure Black and White

ISO 64, f/14, 6-3/4 mins using a Singh Ray Filters 15 stop mor-slo ND circular filter

Accepted image – 2020 PPOC-BC Image Salon

Filters I recommend, along with discount codes can be found at https://davehutchison.ca/affiliates/

6. Occasionally, depending on the conditions, a long exposure image doesn’t need any filters. This was an image taken in the Dolomites, Italy.  As the clouds were moving fast I felt minutes were not necessary to communicate motion and drama in the image.

Photography Workshops Long Exposure Landscape

ISO 400, f/2.8, 30 secs – no filters

Accepted Image – 2021 PPOC National Image Salon

7. Sometimes a high-quality polarizer can provide enough “density” to hold back light and create a long exposure. In this image, the tide was moving quickly and I did not need a really long exposure time.  If I extended the time more I would start to lose the texture in the water.

Photography Workshops Long Exposure Nature

ISO 125, f/11, .4 secs – Singh Ray filters LB Color Combo Polarizer (thin mount)

Accepted image – 2019 PPOC National Image Salon

8. Once the above steps are complete, switch to manual priority (don’t bump the focal ring if using a Zoom or you will have to set focus again), and select “Bulb” or “Time”. The Bulb or Time function allows you to have manual control of how long the shutter will remain open, hence recording a long exposure image.  I use the Time function almost exclusively for long exposures as it gives the photographer the ultimate flexibility in the creative process.

9. You are ready to take the shot!!! Good luck with your long exposure image.

Dave Hutchison is an award-winning landscape & wildlife photographer based near Victoria on Vancouver Island.  Dave has been a PPOC member since 2013 and won Best in Class in “Fine Art” at the 2020 PPOC National Image Salon.  Dave has three PPOC accreditations – nature, pictorial/floral, & wildlife.  Dave is also an International Brand Ambassador for Singh-Ray Filters based in Florida (discount coupon code dhi15 for 15% off at checkout at https://singh-ray.com ).  Dave leads multi day workshops for landscapes & wildlife photography on the BC coast & The Great Bear Rainforest.  Dave also offers webinars & private Zoom sessions around the globe on Long Exposure Photography – “The Art of Seeing What You Can’t See”.  Details can be found at https://davehutchison.ca/

There’s a baby boom in the Salish Sea’s humpback whale population.  Why?

There’s a baby boom in the Salish Sea’s humpback whale population. Why?

There’s a baby boom in the Salish Sea’s humpback whale population.

Humpback whale (calf of Slate) off coast of Gabriola Island – July 2021
Full length version of the story here
Naturalists aboard whale-watching vessels have reported 21 new calves this summer and fall — the largest nursery batch on record and nearly double the previous high of 11 identified last year, said Mark Malleson of the Center for Whale Research in Washington.  He said late summer and autumn bring the peak of humpback activity, as the whales gorge on small fish and krill before traveling to warmer waters in Mexico, Central America and Hawaii to give birth and breed, then returning in late spring.
An adult humpback can eat about 900 kilograms a day, straining huge volumes of ocean water through their baleen plates, which act like a sieve.
“It has been a banner year for female humpbacks coming into the Salish Sea with new calves,” said Wendi Robinson, a naturalist with Puget Sound Express based in Port Townsend, Washington. “Calves only travel with their mothers for a year or so and then they’re on their own. Once they’re familiar with our waters, they will often return year after year to feed.”
The baby boom is being credited to an abundance of food, and the growing population of adult humpbacks.
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